Snow luck for Gottfried as Guildford curse strikes again

Richard Gottfried has been hit by snow.

IT was a case of third time unlucky for Richard Gottfried today as fate once again intervened to scupper a day out in the county town of Surrey.

The Luton-based follower of unusual pastimes had hoped to travel to Guildford for a game of bar billiards in the Royal Oak pub with friend and sometime adversary Oliver Florence.

But a flurry of snow fell on his route overnight and put paid to his plans – leaving him with an unexpectedly clear day in his busy schedule.

The cancellation of his trip due to the elements comes less than two years since his travel arrangements were hit by the eruption of the Eyjafjallajökull in Iceland.

The resultant ash cloud forced him to renege on his proposed trip round the M25.

Gottfried has endured a torrid relationship with Guildford over the years, ever since he was refused entry to the town’s Lido in September 2008 – despite the sun shining.

The snub threw in to disarray his aim of making the facility’s minigolf course the 70th visited on his worldwide playing tour.

“It’s unbelievable that a second planned visit to Guildford has been curtailed due to weather,” a downcast Gottfried lamented. “I was really looking forward to the visit as I’ve not been to Guildford since 2008.

“I’d also found out that the Royal Oak had a bar billiards table and that the town had a castle. I knew the Lido’s Crazy Golf would of been closed, but me and Ollie might of been able to have a game of Snow Crazy Golf at the Stoke Park Swedish Felt Minigolf course.”

All is not lost however, with exciting plans in the pipeline for the staging of a series of challenges later in the year.

The Guildford Games will see Gottfried and Florence face off in a contest involving minigolf, darts, bar billiards and ‘some sort of game involving the castle’ – possibly building a castell.

Burpham-based Florence said: “The finer details are still to be resolved but it would be nice to have some sort of competition, as long as Richard turns up this time.”

Gottfried added: “Ollie’s suggestion of a tournament of multiple games in Guildford sounds brilliant.

“I can’t wait to finally play the minigolf at the Lido and I’m particularly looking forward to the ‘some sort of game involving Guildford castle.’

“Roll on more clement weather.”

Glory for Gottfried as Martin’s mistake fails to cloud celebrations

Master of ceremonies Lottie Jamieson, Oliver Florence and Richard Gottfried with a badger.

WINNER Richard Gottfried had to leave for Luton empty-handed after the apathy of the defending champion disrupted Oliver Florence’s biennial birthday minigolf tournament.

Competition chiefs were forced in to presenting the British number 16 with a model badger as a temporary trophy to mark his one shot win at New Malden as West London’s Guy Martin had left the famous ceramic green minigolf ball some 30 miles away near Farnham.

The apathetic act from Scottish minigolfer Martin came despite two years of near constant claims that he wanted to get rid of the prize ever since he won it at the inaugural event 24 months ago.

It has now been recovered from the window sill of his bedroom at his family home in the Surrey countryside and will be handed over to Gottfried at the next available opportunity.

Guy Martin on his way to a seven at the fourth.

Traditionally, the victor is presented with the ball and a cheesecake, but with the trophy absent and no gluten-free cake option available, the musteline model was hastily drafted in as substitute for the ceremony.

Prolific blogger Gottfried, whose round of 36 was one stroke ahead of second placed Richard Skeggs, failed to let Martin’s mishap take the gloss off his victory.

Getting his ‘hams’ in a pickle, he said: “Knowing the fabled trophy was somewhere near Feltham was neither here nor there. At least it didn’t go back to Putney with former champ Guy Martin.

“With Tiger Woods recently victorious in a limited field non-tour event after a ‘win drought’ since 2009, I felt it was high time I did something similar in minigolf.”

He added: “I wish I had taken a photo of the badger-on-a-plinth stand-in trophy as I could have of framed it and put in on my trophy shelf.”

A magnanimous Martin, whose round of 48 shows how far he has come in the game since his winning score of 40 in 2009, added: “The good thing about losing was that I could get rid of the ceramic green ball – although the fact that I forgot it on Saturday meant that I was not even able to do that.

Oliver Florence, Emily Gottfried and the great cake (centre).

“I hope Richard Gottfried treasures it in a way that I did not.”

Elsewhere in the field, Florence struck a disappointing 46 to finish behind Wales’s Paul Jones – the top amateur with 41 – and Emily Gottfried (44), who made a special cake for the occasion modelled on the Maier Classic 3 minigolf ball.

Kent Open champion Seth Thomas and Birmingham academic Larry Cooley, who it has emerged once appeared on TV show Shipwrecked, carded 47.

It was left to Leamington Spa-based character Robert Clark to bring up the rear, coming home in 51 – still eight shots better than the 2009 wooden spoon winner, Melanie Hall.

Skeggs took the pro-am title, despite not having a partner, with a combined round score of 82.25.

A fire lights up the dining room.

Horley-based Gentle Touch however courted controversy by affixing a rubber ball pick up sucker to his club despite a ruling that every player had to use course equipment.

At the reception, attended by Dorking Advertiser chief Sam Blackledge, Cornwall’s Lottie Jamieson led the celebrations with a quiz and an eccentric game of pass the parcel, with prizes including a pine cone, a bell and a tea bag and a range of feathers.

With Trinity Mirror fire marshal Paul McManus keeping a close eye on proceedings, there was also a spectacular display of indoor fireworks, featuring several Rising Cobras.

The finale however led to a charred table – with McManus powerless to prevent such an incident occurring at a Florence function for the second time in three years.

Mexican rejection fails to keep charming trio off screen

Calling a halt: Montserrat Oliver has pulled out of filming. (Picture:

MEXICAN model and TV presenter Montserrat Oliver has delivered an extraordinary snub to the south of England worm charming champions by pulling out of a planned filming session.

The 45-year-old actress, cultural ambassador and self-styled fashion icon was due to film with Oliver Florence, Richard Skeggs and Robert Clark last weekend but had a last minute change of heart.

The trio had been invited to demonstrate their worm charming skills for a programme on unusual English sports and pastimes to be shown in the Spanish-speaking country during the London Olympics next year.

But Monserrat, whose previous exploits include riding an ostrich, meeting a panda and kissing a bear, reportedly decided the activity was not ‘wacky’ enough and Florence has now been tasked with coming up with an alternative spectacle.

“We were very excited after the initial approach from the television company,” explained Florence. “A date for worm charming had been set and we were looking around for a suitable field.

Media coverage included an article in the Surrey Advertiser - Elmbridge edition.

“But then word came through that there had been a U-turn and Monserrat didn’t want to have a go any more.

“Apparently, she wanted to do something ‘wackier’ and had done something similar on a previous trip to Africa.

“I really don’t know what to suggest.”

The charming trio were greeted by a whirlwind of media interest after their victory in October.

They were interviewed and photographed straight after the win by a man who wrote their names down on an old bus timetable, promising an appearance in the nationals, and also spoke to the official magazine of the Earthworm Society of Britain.

Details of their feat later appeared in the Aldershot News & Mail and Surrey Advertiser, with Florence describing the feeling of victory as ‘literally quite extraordinary’.

The team converged on the venue at Kings International College, Camberley with high hopes of lifting their first worm charming trophy, following a promising debut outing at the world championships in June.

Gone was the fox outfit however as Leamington Spa-based Clark reprised his role of expert gillie and Skeggs, who had flown in from Glasgow, shared the twanging of the fork with Florence.

The competition came down to a straight fight between the three and a team of locals with a nerve wracking wait to see who had won.

“There were lots of rumours flying around the field about who had come out on top so we could not be quite sure until the result was finally announced but in the end 193 worms represented a bit of a landslide victory,” Florence said.

The fox and Florence (and possibly Clark) can clearly be seen on the left of the screen during an episode of ITV1's Ade in Britain.

“To know that our team were the champions of the whole of the south of England was really quite special and it will be an honour to represent the region when we return to Cheshire next year for the worlds to take on the best worm charmers on the planet.

“We are already thinking about how we can improve and have one or two tactical ideas up our sleeves.”

Despite the snub from the Mexicans, this week did see the south of England champions make an appearance on the box.

Skeggs in his fox outfit can be spotted in the background during a feature on this year’s world championships filmed by comedian Adrian Edmondson for his ITV1 show Ade in Britain.

Roasting hot Florence carves up Skeggs to help himself to Minches

The Minches with Master Carver Bijay (left) and some turkey

THE Toby Carvery in Worcester Park was the setting for a celebratory roast dinner after Oliver Florence took the final Minches of the season.

Master Carver Bijay was delighted to see the famous trophy visit the restaurant and congratulated Florence on his victory before serving him a plate of turkey and beef with a Yorkshire pudding.

Florence then helped himself to the array of delicious freshly-cooked vegetables, all for just £5.75 (Monday to Friday, seated before 7pm).

Earlier in the evening, the new Minches holder proved hotter than horseradish sauce as he comprehensively outplayed Skeggs to take two rounds at New Malden and clinch the final match of the season 3-1.

It is the second year running that he has won the last contest before the winter break – avoiding a season-long whitewash at the hands of his adversary.

An out-of-sorts Skeggs narrowly lost the first round following two aces in the cave from Florence.

Florence with the Minches outside the Toby Carvery

He then completely lost his touch and fell to defeat in the final round by around ten strokes – suffering in the process what Florence described as the worst shot he had ever seen him play, a horrific second shot on the eighth.

“It’s bitterly disappointing to lose the most important Minches of the year,” said Skeggs. “Luck was definitely not on my side, but even if it had been Ollie would still have won.

“He had two very solid rounds and, having aced the volcano, deserved the glory. I will be firing on all cylinders come April to win the trophy back though.”

Champion Florence added: “Finally winning the Minches again is a huge weight off my mind.

“Wins this year have been less common than my blogs so I’m ecstatically happy to have seized the trophy for the winter and had a little celebration in my head. Now hopefully I can start concentrating on writing again.”

Skeggs on his way to defeat by Pragnell

Skeggs’ poor run of form continued last Sunday, when he finished 20th in the Kent Open – a tournament which was well won by Seth Thomas.

And there was double embarrassment for Gentle Touch when, having confidently predicted that beating Alex Pragnell was ‘a given’, he lost out to the outspoken Bexhill-based man by one shot.

Pragnell may however be forced in to a rethink of his minigolf philosophy, with Skeggs scoring twos on 40 holes compared with a haul of just 34 for Perfect Par.

Red-faced Ruthers left rueing luck after fantastic final

Team Wilson staring defeat in the face...

AMATEUR cameraman James Rutherford was left ‘distraught’ after a technical error caused him to miss the greatest moment of Oliver Florence’s minigolf career.

Florence sunk a superb ace on the last hole in the final of the British Doubles Championship in Dorridge to take Team Wilson in to a play-off with reigning champions May The Force Be With Who.

Under immense pressure, Florence had found the perfect line and rebounded the ball off the back wall.

...Florence steps up needing an ace...

Rutherford, who had filmed the entire action up to that point on the iPhone of Florence’s playing partner Richard Skeggs, was all set to capture the moment the ball dropped.

But – with the ball just centimetres away from the hole and seconds before one of the biggest roars ever heard on the minigolf course – disaster struck and the filming cut out.

Afterwards, Rutherford admitted that he had blown his big chance.

...not a bad line...

“It was hard to keep my composure throughout the tense final as I knew eventually the whole world (of minigolf) would be watching,” he said.

“Team Wilson were one down with one to play with an ace required to tie the match.

“I positioned myself carefully and steadied my hand, ready to capture.

“As Ollie hit his tee shot, I followed the ball with ease and watched with delight as it sailed towards the hole for a stunning ace.

...but disaster strikes as the filming cuts out.

“Moving on to the first hole of sudden death, I looked down to the iPhone to check for light levels and visuals and was distraught to realise that somehow it was no longer recording.

“After the event naturally The Machine wanted to view his fantastic ace on the final hole and I was still confident that I had captured the moment impeccably with commentary befitting the World Cup final in 1966.

“Alas this was not to be, as to my dismay there had been a technical fault and recording had ended with the ball just one foot away from going in.

“I have let down a huge number of people and most importantly myself.”

In the play-off for the title, Florence and Skeggs eventually lost to Marc Chapman and Chris Harding on the second extra hole with, luckily for Rutherford, the whole contest expertly filmed and posted to YouTube by Adam Kelly.

Despite the defeat, Team Wilson – named in honour of Wilson of the Hello! Minigolf Club in China – were delighted with their somewhat unexpected success.

Florence said: “We never believed we would reach the final, especially after we were drawn in a very tough group.

Team Wilson with their winnings

“We had some really good wins throughout the day though and it was an amazing experience to play in the final match with everyone watching.

“Marc and Chris were just a bit too good for us in the end and were worthy champions, but we are already looking forward to Wilson competing again next year.

“As for Ruthers, he’s got a whole 12 months to perfect his filming technique and I’m sure he’ll come good in the end.”

Earlier, Team Wilson had beaten the Green Giants pairing of British Champion Rutherford and Nick Sandqvist, before losing to Team Sqonkey’s Richard Gottfried and Scott Lancley.

A draw with the Cheap Shots of Adam and Tony Kelly took Wilson through to a play-off with the Green Giants for a quarter final place.

In a precursor to his later spell of bad luck, Rutherford missed the second shot on the first hole to hand victory to his opponents.

Florence and Skeggs then beat Seth Thomas and Chris Smith of the Green Warriors and the Casual Force team of Sean and Marion Homer to tee up their place in the final.

McManus’s raft of errors rubs Florence up the wrong way

McManus prepares to mess things up

PUTTER problems plagued Oliver Florence just moments before an important tournament after poor workmanship from a self-proclaimed experienced adhesive worker.

Florence was all ready to use his new NIFO Ryner in the British Matchplay Championships at Bluewater but was forced to switch back to his FunSports after discovering the rubber had come away from the club head.

He had entrusted the job of gluing the rubber to the putter to work colleague Paul McManus after the Irishman had insisted he had wide experience of fixing rubber to metal with a variety of epoxy resins.

But a failure to use enough of the substance – bought specially from the Guildford branch of B&Q – cast doubt on McManus’s claims and threw Florence in to disarray just hours before one of the most eagerly anticipated contests on the minigolf circuit.

“I had practised with my new implement two days before the tournament and felt really good,” Florence explained. “But as I was packing my equipment early on Sunday for the long trip round the M25, I was horrified to discover that the rubber had come clean off.

“It really hit me hard and was far from ideal preparation ahead of my opening fixture.

“I’m not using it as an excuse for my shaky start but going back to my old club didn’t help and I never really recovered from defeat in my first match.”

Alex Pragnell helps with the second round draw

McManus carried out the flawed operation during a break from constructing the Surrey Advertiser’s entry in the Guildford Raft Race.

He stretched the raft building exercise out for days and even felt the need to use his holiday time to complete the painfully-slow project.

“Some people wondered what he was doing out there all that time,” Florence said. “Well he certainly wasn’t doing a good job on the putter that’s for sure.”

McManus declined to answer specific questions about his failure but did issue a statement.

The statement had been lost as the Mini Golfer went to press.

On the course, following an opening defeat to David Donnelly by one hole, Florence was able to bring out his new weapon after gluing it properly in the car.

The final score in the final match

He went on to lose narrowly in the group stage to Marc Chapman 2&1 and Nick Sandqvist – who provided Florence with the rubber – by two holes.

He then beat Donnelly by one hole in the competition for those eliminated from the groups but lost by two holes to Kevin Moseley – the Bath-based man fuelled by an 11.30am curry, the earliest he had ever eaten.

The final match saw Florence clinch 19th spot with a triumph over Alex Pragnell – who famously came last by 33 shots using a rubberless putter at the World Adventure Golf Masters in Hastings earlier in the season.

Despite a two hole reverse and never being ahead in the match, Pragnell later claimed he was ‘unlucky’ not to win.

Next up for Florence is the Midlands Open at Dorridge on Saturday, before teaming up with Richard Skeggs as team Wilson in the British Doubles Championship at the same course on Sunday.

Charming fox worms his way to success at world championships

Robert Clark and Richard Skeggs dressed as a fox

A FOX costume helped Oliver Florence, Richard Skeggs and Robert Clark to a top 112 finish in their first World Worm Charming Championships.

The trio managed to coax 38 worms from the ground in just half an hour at the showpiece event in Willaston, Cheshire.

Worn by Skeggs, the vulpine outfit delighted the majority of the crowd, with youngsters queueing to both high five the animal and have their photos taken with him.

There was a moment of controversy however when one young boy became scared at the sight of the big fox.

He had to be comforted by his father after expressing his disapproval at the choice of Skeggs’s outfit.

On the plot, the fox played largely a cosmetic role as Florence charmed the creatures out by twanging a garden fork for Clark to then pick them up and deposit them in a pot.

Before the contest the group has indicated they would be happy with just one worm, so were pleased with their haul of 38 – just over 200 fewer than the winners.

A boy is comforted by his father after seeing Skeggs

“The result was even more remarkable given the team’s preparations, which consisted largely of an inconclusive discussion over whether buying an electronic mole deterrer would be good idea.

“I couldn’t believe the worms actually flocked to the surface when we put the fork in,” Skeggs said. “Florence had a natural touch on the fork and produced some stunning results with his vibrating technique.

“And 38 worms is a most respectable score considering our somewhat lacklustre preparations.”

Leamington-based Clark added: “Richard Skeggs was quite possibly the best dressed attendee at the championships, and definitely the best dressed competitor. You couldn’t hope for a better mascot”

“After a slow start we really came on strong towards the end and we stayed true to our morals.

“We could have scored 41 but chose to leave three worms which surfaced seconds after the klaxon sounded.”

“This year was a warm up for next year’s full championship attack. I can’t wait.”

St Mary's Village Carnival chairman Gordon Gray with a worm

Florence – who was forced to miss the British Championships minigolf tournament for the trip north – was immediately back in worm charming action the following weekend at the St Mary’s Village Carnival in Edlesborough, Buckinghamshire.

There was disappointment however as, with the help of fellow minigolfer Richard Gottfried dressed as a chicken and his 11-year-old nephew Kallum, not a single worm was charmed to the surface and the team lost by two.

Florence said: “I had high hopes going in to the Edlesborough fixture, especially when I found out that we were the only side with specialist equipment of forks and a chicken costume.

“To lose to a group of girls beating the ground with some sticks is really quite galling.”

Unique two-ball ‘almost worth a blog’

Richard Gottfried (left) relaxes between rounds

THE pairing in the English Open of two of the foremost minigolf writers of their generation has been declared as ‘almost worth a blog’.

For the first time in their careers, Oliver Florence was drawn to play alongside fellow blogger ‘Squire’ Richard Gottfried during the tournament at Wroxham Barns in Norfolk.

Florence, who has become somewhat of a reluctant scribe in recent months, was moved to remark that the unique occasion could possibly be worthy of a posting.

The Stoke-on-Trent born, Walton-on-Thames based player said: “I was quietly pleased to be paired up with Richard.

“He was one of my minigolf heroes when I was starting out in the game so it was an honour to be playing in the same group as him.

“It’s almost worth a blog.”

Gottfried, founder and author of the popular online tome The Ham and Egger Files, was equally complimentary about his playing partner, as both inspired each other to promising opening rounds.

Florence struck a 34, with Gottfried carding a highly impressive 31 – the duo sinking 11 holes-in-one between then.

“It was great to be drawn to play the first two rounds with fellow blogger Ollie,” said Luton’s Gottfried, who has written 104 blog posts since the start of last month compared with Florence’s two.

“The Machine is a great minigolfer and he and I put on somewhat of an ‘Aces Masterclass’ in round one.

“It was just a shame no-one else was watching.”

Despite their successes it was not all plain sailing for Florence and Gottfried.

Oliver Florence sails a boat on the Norfolk Broads

Just months after experiencing a delay in the arrival of their kit for The Green doubles tournament, they encountered further hold-ups playing behind the trio of Nick Sandqvist, Nick Chitty and Emily Gottfried.

“There was plenty of time to discuss possible blog topics as our two-ball group was drawn behind the slowest group in minigolf history,” Squire added.

Florence eventually went on to win £20 by securing third place in the category 2 competition, behind Richard Skeggs and Marion Homer, while a disappointing final round from Gottfried pushed him down to 7th.

Overall, Florence was pleased with his 14th place finish on one of the toughest courses on the circuit and celebrated by hiring a boat on the Norfolk Broads with Skeggs.

“Compared with last year’s British Championships my round average improved by five shots so I’m making progress,” The Machine said. “I might write a blog about it.”

Sullied Skeggs sees off seagulls to seal Minches win

David Hartley of Hastings Adventure Golf presents the trophy

 A DOUBLE defecation failed to knock Richard Skeggs off his stride as he won the May Minches in Hastings.

Gentle Touch was targeted by the town’s seagulls twice in a day in the run up to the contest but recovered to take the trophy 3-0.

The first soiling took place in the morning as Skeggs walked to the seaside course after enjoying breakfast at Wetherspoons.

He said: “When it hit, I thought either some urchin had thrown something at me or a bird had pooed on me from a great height. It turned out to be the latter.”

Skeggs forced Oliver Florence to wipe clean his hair at a nearby public toilet, but less than a few hours later he was struck again, causing him to return to his hotel room for a more thorough cleansing.

On the course however Skeggs kept a clear head to take the two rounds needed to retain the title he won in Worthing in March.

Cleaning off the bird poo

Florence and Skeggs were in Hastings to compete in the inaugural World Adventure Golf Masters on the newly-opened pirate golf course.

In a tournament won by Martin Stöckle of Germany, Skeggs finished in 21st while Florence came in 28th – ahead of veteran Austrian Peter Schallek and Alex Pragnell, who played throughout with no rubber on his putter.

The pair are now preparing for the eagerly anticipated trip to Norfolk for the English Open at Wroxham Barns.

Meanwhile, there are reports that Florence is considering quitting blogging to concentrate on his game and the quest to break in to the top 20 of the BMGA order of merit.

Florence was unavailable for comment.

Winning round sees Skeggs make leaderboard

Up goes the name of Richard Skeggs

RICHARD Skeggs made his mark on the leaderboard at New Malden as he took a 1-0 lead in the May Minches.

The holder of the famous trophy carded a round of 34 to take second place on the newly installed board at the course near the A3.

A poor score of 41 gave Oliver Florence the chance to join his rival on the list of top players but The Machine turned down the opportunity due to embarrassment with his round.

The request to be listed brought about much faffing, with the woman in the shop, who Skeggs later described as a little “surly”, using a special spray to remove the name of the 10th placed adult player from the board.

Skeggs then stepped in to help as his tile took its place below that of PGA professional Adam Hall.

The television in the Margate hotel

The May Minches will be completed next week in Hastings, where Florence will be looking to put a recent run of poor form behind him to win back the trophy.

Earlier this month Florence came 24th in the British Masters in Margate after his preparations were severely hampered by arriving in the town for practice after the course had closed for the day.

He also had problems in his hotel room with the television reception.